Jesus says a lot of surprising things. The really wonderful thing is that what He says constantly surprises even Christians. And that’s a good thing!
This morning He tells us some surprising things about His kingdom: first, that it “does not come with observation,” and second, that “it is within you.”
Part of the surprise comes, I think, because we misunderstand what Jesus is really saying. Certainly, the words “The kingdom of God (heaven) is within you” have been twisted to mean, for example by New Agers, that God is in everyone regardless of their commitment to the one true God.
But faithful Christians misunderstand this passage as well, because often we don’t really believe or act as if the Kingdom of God is anything we need to worry about because it isn’t here yet. There are some who teach this directly, and such a belief has terrible consequences for individual souls, the Church, and society.
The fact is that the Kingdom of God (heaven) has come, and most people, including many Christians are missing it. We know that the Kingdom of God has already come primarily because the King Himself has come – He came 2000 years ago. When John the Baptist came preaching, he said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven won’t come for 3000 years until the bodily return of Jesus.” Oops, wrong Gospel. No, he said: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is close by. In fact, it is here.
In Luke 9, when Jesus sends the 70 out, He says that when they heal the sick they are to say, “The kingdom of heaven has come near you.” Wherever the King is reigning, there is the kingdom.
But too often we are looking for a more visible kingdom. We are looking for the miracles of Elijah or Jesus to happen to us. We are looking for the kingdom to come with such force and clarity that we couldn’t ignore it even if we wanted to.
But Jesus tells us instead that the kingdom of God “does not come with observation,” or perhaps a better translation: “does not come in such a way that it is easily seen.” When God comes to us, it is usually in such humble and ordinary ways that it startles us. He could write a message in the clouds every morning, a message we couldn’t ignore, something like: “Some God!” or “Hey all you atheists out there, how do you explain this fancy writing in the clouds every morning?!” But He doesn’t.
The fact is, that the Kingdom of God is “within us,” which may also be translated “among you.” I think both are correct, but if it is true that the Kingdom of God is within us, that doesn’t preclude the fact that it is also out there. But what Jesus is most interested in here is that His kingdom comes not so much through external miracles as through internal ones, ones that can’t be seen without faith.The truth is that we are seated in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ right now (Ephesians 2:6), and He rules through His Church, for we are His Body and His presence here on earth. What Jesus Christ began to do on earth He continues through us, and so His kingdom comes through us. And this means it must be within us. It means, as well, that only when the King of kings truly reigns in our hearts and lives will His kingdom be manifested to the world.
So where do we see the Kingdom of God in our lives then, even if we have faith?
I see it in a thousand small ways every day and a few big ways every once in a while. Every time you teach your children to pray, the Kingdom of God has come. Every time you silently give thanks for one of God’s good gifts, the Kingdom of God has come. Every time by the grace of God you beat down Satan under your feet and resist the temptation to sin, then know that the Kingdom of God has come. When you give alms to the poor and no one else sees, then the Kingdom of God has come.
Because we do have the Kingdom of God within us, that is, because Jesus Christ reigns in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we have an obligation to manifest the Kingdom of God. The good news is that it is manifested every time we submit to the King and do His holy will. And this is what we are supposed to be doing and what we say we want to do anyway.
Repent, Renew, and Rejoice! For the Kingdom of God is within you and is revealed every time you submit to the reign of the King.
Prayer: Today pray the Kingdom Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, throughout the day. When you pray it corporately, it only lasts about 23 seconds, and that’s not enough to fully absorb and apply it. So today, pray the Lord’s Prayer, meditating on how each phrase relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Find a creative way to celebrate today or this week when God’s kingdom has been visibly manifested in your life.
- Think about some of the ways that God and His Kingdom have come in your life – and you’ve missed them.
Today pray the Kingdom Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, throughout the day. When you pray it corporately, it only lasts about 23 seconds, and that’s not enough to fully absorb and apply it. So today, pray the Lord’s Prayer, meditating on how each phrase relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson